1st Global Conference: Making Sense of: Play (July 2012, Oxford, United Kingdom) (PLAY)

Venue: Mansfield College

Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

Event Date/Time: Jul 11, 2012 End Date/Time: Jul 13, 2012
Registration Date: Jan 13, 2012
Abstract Submission Date: Jan 13, 2012
Paper Submission Date: May 11, 2012
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1st Global Conference
Making Sense of: Play

Wednesday 11th July 2012 – Friday 13th July 2012
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Papers:
What is “play”? The noun “play” and the verb “to play”, though related, can have quite different meanings. Either way, the term is ubiquitous and plays (!) a significant part in the depiction of many common and important aspects of existence. This is so despite – or perhaps because of – the contradiction that is inherent in the concept “play”. On the one hand, there is the sense of play that has to do with freedom, improvisation, inventiveness, not-in-earnestness, frivolity, fun, though sometimes nastiness, too (as in playing with someone’s affections or torturing others for pleasure – think Abu Ghraib photographs, for example). On the other hand, there is play which is ritualistic and rule-governed: sport, drama, musical performance, various games, all of which have a strong element of structured performance in common. However, in both cases there is the implication that when we “play” (or a “play” is in progress), something not quite “for real” is taking place, something superfluous, perhaps, from the point of view of necessity or survival. At the same time, “play” appears to be something quite fundamental, as evidenced in the frequency with which the term appears in discourse and the role it has (plays!) in metaphors such as, e.g. “playing with fire”, “playing hooky”, “playing by ear”, “playing rough, playing fair” When we speak of children and play we vacillate between seeing play as ‘children’s work” and as such necessary, essential for a child’s learning about the world or we dismiss it as “mere child’s play,” as indeed superfluous and not of real account. Puppies and children play and to that extent, we count it as evidence of lacking the status of the serious, working adult. We might also consider the play of the senses, both in children and in adults, when we consider the delight we take in looking, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling—a kind of somatic play that reminds us of our connections to the earth and its myriad of sensuous experiences. Artists often consider their task to “play” with sensuous media. Even as they engage in the serious task of making art.

The interdisciplinary project Making Sense Of: Play seeks to examine the various meanings of “play”, elucidate their inter-relationships and trace the origins of the patterns of play and their place in the human condition. Variations in cultural conditions naturally impact on play, its meanings and its forms, as do, often in a different way, economic inequalities both within and between different cultures. Our deliberations will necessarily takes this into account. In many languages, as in English, throughout its etymological history “play” has been closely connected to the world of children and make believe. Academic study of play, too, deals predominantly with various aspects of children’s play and its importance in development. There is, in fact, a lack of balance between the study of play in relation to children and childhood on one hand, and “play” more generally, as outlined above, on the other. For this reason our project explicitly emphasizes the comparatively under-explored aspects of play in linguistic, literary, philosophical, historical, psychological and evolutionary frames of reference.

The following broad themes are suggested: Play (as both – or either – freedom and constraint)

- in politics
- in literature
- throughout history
- in philosophy
- as a psychological issue
- its evolutionary significance
- in language
- as humour
- in metaphor
- play of perception
- play and the life-course
- relating to existential crisis (illness, death)
- and love
- and hatred
- and power
- animal play

The above themes are not unrelated; they represent dimensions rather than categories and can therefore be combined in presentations.

The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals. Papers will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 13th January 2012. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday11th May 2012. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 key words

E-mails should be entitled: PLAY Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). Please note that a Book of Abstracts is planned for the end of the year. All accepted abstracts will be included in this publication. We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Joint Organising Chairs:

Wendy Turgeon
Project Leader
St. Joseph’s College,
New York,
Email: turgeon@optonline.net

Rob Fisher
Network Founder and Leader
Freeland, Oxfordshire,
United Kingdom
mail: play@inter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the Probing the Boundaries programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.

All papers accepted for and presented at this conference will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers maybe invited for development for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s)

For further details of the project, please visit:

For further details of the conference, please visit:

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.